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Business-backed Republican tops Tea Party rival in Alabama primary

By Verna Gates

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama (Reuters) - A business-backed former state senator beat a Tea Party movement rival on Tuesday in an Alabama congressional primary that highlighted tensions between the Republican Party's pragmatic and ideological wings over the recent government shutdown.

Major businesses including Wal-Mart Stores Inc and Home Depot Inc had backed the campaign of former lawmaker Bradley Byrne, saying the 58-year-old attorney better represents their interests than Dean Young, a wealthy real estate developer running a grass-roots campaign.

An unofficial tally gave Byrne 52.5 percent of the vote to Young's 47.5 percent.

Young told his supporters he had conceded, saying, "It looks like we fell a little short."

But he said he would not support Byrne in the December 17 election, when he will face Democrat Burton LeFlore.

Byrne backed the Republican Party's mainstream during the government shutdown, which opposed funding for the Obama administration's healthcare reform law, but disagreed with the shutdown.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce sent their national political director, Rob Engstrom, to Alabama last week to an endorsement event with Byrne, a former Democrat who joined the Republicans in 1997.

Many of its members, such as Wal-Mart and Home Depot, have sent funds to Byrne's campaign, part of a total war chest of more than $689,000 according to the Federal Election Commission.

"Washington needs proven leaders who understand the principals of free enterprise," said the chamber's spokesman, Blair Latoff Holmes.

His donor list reads like a who's who of national and local business leaders, with politicians such as House Majority Leader Eric Cantor tossing in contributions.

In contrast, Young depended on grass-roots support with only a modest $85,546 raised, according to the FEC. Young is aligned with an Alabama judge who famously erected a granite monument of the Ten Commandments in 2001 at the state supreme court building in Montgomery. It was later removed.

(Editing by David Adams, Sharon Bernstein, Maureen Bavdek and Ken Wills)

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